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College offers spring ‘guest semester’ to students affected by hurricanes

December 1, 2017

Bowdoin announced yesterday that it is initiating a Guest Semester Program for spring 2018 designed to accommodate students who currently attend inoperable universities in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Students who cannot attend their schools because of transportation, housing or financial difficulties have until December 18 to apply for the program.

“We want to allow students in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands who are at institutions that are not operational to have a safe harbor so they can continue their studies,” said Scott Hood, senior vice president for communications and public affairs in a phone interview with the Orient.

Bowdoin is among a handful of institutions across the country that are implementing similar programs. Among the NESCAC schools, Amherst will also host a similar initiative.

While the College is unsure of the exact amount of students who will be admitted to the guest semester, each student admitted to all class years will be provided with full coverage of tuition, room and board, books, winter clothing costs and transportation to campus.

“Strictly due to capacity, we really have room for only a handful of students. We will see how many will apply and take it from there,” Hood said.

While the Office of Admissions brought up the idea, all areas of the College were taken into account when making the decision to start the program. Student Affairs, Admissions, the Dean’s Office and the President’s Office have been discussing the process for weeks. All departments want to help hurricane-stricken students thrive while at Bowdoin.

“We will make whatever accommodations they need to make so that the students who come here have an opportunity to be successful,” Hood said.

Hood noted that this program is only one semester, since hopefully, by fall of 2018, colleges and universities in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands will be able to house and teach students. As of right now, many colleges in these communities are in the midst of an uphill battle to re-open. For instance, The University of Puerto Rico, which enrolls almost 60,000 students, estimates $118 million in damages to its facilities.

The Guest Semester Program is an extension of an earlier change by the College to accommodate students applying for matriculation for the Class of 2022 from areas hit with natural disasters such as hurricanes, wildfires in the west and the earthquake in Mexico City. These students can expect accommodations that range from fee waivers to extensions and more.

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